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Doctor Who for Newbies: The Villains pt. 2

As promised, I’m back with the rest of Doctor Who’s most tenacious antagonists, having battled him at least three times. I hope reading about the Master and Daleks didn’t give you nightmares; if it did, you have a very weak constitution. The rest of the villains are no less dastardly, so have your pillow at the ready for cowering purposes.

Meet the rest of the bad guys after the jump:

14 Stories: 10 classic, 4 new
Since the Daleks had been such a cultural phenomenon, the makers of Doctor Who kept trying to replicate their success (and not have to pay Terry Nation every time). They tried a lot of similar-looking robots with silly voices, like the Mechanoids and later the Quarks, but nothing could rival the perturbed pepperpots. That is, until they hit upon a very different kind of robot. Created by writer Gerry Davis and the show’s scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler, the Cybermen were a rarity among Doctor Who villains: humans who’ve been taken over by robotics. In the 1964 story, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, humans were turned into “robomen” which amounted to little more than having them wear a metallic headpiece that received orders.

Premiering in The Tenth Planet, the Cybermen were originally the human population of Earth’s long lost sister planet, Mondas. Over the years, the Mondasians tried to better themselves by replacing bits of their organic flesh with cybernetic ones, eventually totally forgoing human emotion, calling it a “weakness.” In Tenth Planet, they land at a small research base in Antarctica and explain that Mondas is stealing energy from Earth, and will soon destroy it, but they are willing to take the humans back with them and change them into Cybermen; a nice gesture really, except most people don’t want to actually become Cybermen. It’s this practice that truly sets the Cybermen apart from the Daleks. The Daleks want to destroy everything unlike them; the Cybermen want to force everything to be like them, like cybernetic missionaries.

Besides introducing a new villain, The Tenth Planet is another milestone for the series, being the first time the Doctor regenerates. At the end of episode 4, the First Doctor is weak and collapses, telling his companions that his body is wearing a bit thin, and it’s time for a change. This last episode is, inconveniently enough, the only one of the four to be lost to time, though footage of the actual regeneration (here called “renewal”) still exists.

While the Daleks remained, on the whole, physically unchanged throughout the history of the show, the Cybermen were always changing. Each time they appeared in the classic series, they were somehow different, which is most likely due to the costuming technology getting better as time progressed, but it also makes perfect sense with their core belief which is self-betterment through mechanics. They even look different within the same season as is the case with the next adventure.

The Second Doctor’s main foe is easily the Cybermen, fighting them four times in three seasons. His first encounter with them came in the 1967 story The Moonbase, which is an example of another Second Doctor staple: the base-under-siege plot. This time, their siege entails attacking the base on Earth’s moon to take over its weather-controlling device, the Gravitron, to destroy all life on Earth. As per usual, the Doctor and his companions have to prevent this. Episodes 1 and 3 of the four-parter are missing, but the audio and still images are couple with the two remaining episodes to create a full story on the Lost in Time DVD set.

Season 5 opened with Tomb of the Cybermen, in which the Doctor and company land on the planet Telos and meet up with a group of archaeologists uncovering a tomb. Apparently, the Cybermen colonized Telos millennia ago and were buried there, hibernating, waiting to be reawakened. This serial also introduces the idea of the “cybermat” or a small, insect-like robot that transmits the cyber-infection that creates Cybermen. Tomb of the Cybermen was thought lost to the ethers until it was miraculously found, in its entirety, in the vaults of a Hong Kong TV station. It remains the earliest complete story from Patrick Troughton’s tenure.

He would see them in the last story of the season, The Wheel in Space, as well and is another space station attack. He fought the Cybermen only once more, but it was a doozy. 1968’s The Invasion saw the Doctor and companions landing on 1960s Earth to find a scientist friend and end up getting embroiled with a megalomaniac’s plan to take over the world in an uneasy pact with the again-redesigned silver scalawags. At eight episodes long, it would be easy to assume it’s a bit long, but the story really cooks. Episodes 1 and 4 are lost, but they have been reconstructed for the DVD using off-air recordings and flash animation. With real-world locations, skillful direction, and compelling characters, The Invasion is arguably the best surviving Second Doctor story.

The Cybermen would sit out for the entirety of the Third Doctor’s era, showing up only in brief flashbacks in two stories, but in 1975, they made their, somewhat less-than triumphant return. The Fourth Doctor serial Revenge of the Cybermen was the last story of Tom Baker’s inaugural season. It’s a fun story, involving the gold-fearing Cybermen trying to destroy the asteroid Voga, the largest gold reserve in the universe, but it’s hampered by immediately following Genesis of the Daleks, which is arguably the greatest story in the history of the show. The Cybermen in Revenge are much different from any previous incarnation and have blasters in their headpieces.

They would stay gone again for the rest of Tom Baker’s seven-year stint and would finally make their reappearance in style with the Fifth Doctor story, Earthshock. Throughout the 1980s, the Cybermen were as prominent as the Daleks, but while each 80s Dalek story is a high point, only Earthshock is considered good. It’s VERY good to be precise. It involves a plot to destroy parts of Earth, killing visiting dignitaries leaving many worlds without leadership and ripe for Cyber-hauling.

The serial ends with one of the bleakest and best endings of any Doctor Who story. Earthshock introduces the character of the Cybermen’s leader, called the Cyber-Leader. He is played by David Banks who would play the character for the remainder of the 80s. The shiny shits face off against four different Doctors in the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors. Most of their time is spent chasing around the Third Doctor ironically, but they were generally menacing to all of the others in attendance. (Despite the title, the Fourth Doctor does not feature in the anniversary special because at the time, Tom Baker was a huge buzzkill.)

The 1985 serial Attack of the Cybermen is one of the most controversial in the show’s history due to some too-graphic-for-tea-time violence and blood. It involves a plot to change Earth’s history in favor of the Cyber-race and it takes the Doctor and Peri to the planet Telos, where the Tomb was, and he encounters the original race on Telos. A lot of people don’t like this story, but I don’t think it’s that bad.

The final classic series Cybermanning comes in the Seventh Doctor story Silver Nemesis, which is kind of a less good version of Remembrance of the Daleks in that everybody’s looking for a powerful Time Lord artifact. The only thing really notable about it is that is officially the 25th anniversary story, because it was on November 23, 1988, but other than that, it’s pretty much pants.

New Who reintroduced the Cybermen in the Tenth Doctor’s first series in the two parter Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel where the Doctor, Rose, and Mickey go to a parallel Earth where a company called Cybus Industries invents the ultimate upgrade to humanity. In about twenty-three seconds they start taking over. The return in the two-part finale Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, but get upstaged by the Daleks. They somehow go back in time in the 2008 Christmas special The Next Doctor where a 100-foot tall CyberKing trashes 1851 London. It’s about as ridiculous as it sounds.

The last appearance to date was a good one. In The Pandorica Opens, the Eleventh Doctor and Amy come across a broken Cyberman in the caves underneath Stonehenge. In a scene reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing, the pieces of the Cyberman attack and try to assimilate them. They are later featured in the episode as part of the Alliance.

5 stories: 4 classic, 1 new
The Sontarans made their debut in the first story in 1973 Jon Pertwee’s final season. The Time Warrior was written by perennial Doctor Who scribe Robert Holmes. Holmes had been instructed by script editor Terrance Dicks to do a strictly historical story, a throwback to the Hartnell and Troughton days, but Holmes found this endlessly boring, having no interest in history himself, so he injected the medieval romp with some futuristic stuff more in his idiom. He created a story about a technologically advanced alien taking Earth scientists from the “present” back to the middle-ages in order to fix his ship. The alien introduced futuristic weapons to the primitive warlords, and the Doctor must prevent these weapons from rewriting history.

Not only did Robert Holmes add an alien character to an otherwise historical drama, but he created an entire race and planetary history, which is especially impressive given that only one such creature appears in the story. Sontarans are a clone race, bred for nothing but war. Due to Sontar’s intense gravity, Sontarans are short and squat and their heads resemble potatoes. They are nigh-invulnerable when faced in battle save for a small probic vent at the back of their neck. It is for this reason they are said never to retreat. Also introduced is the concept that the entire Sontaran Empire is in a perpetual war with a race called the Rutans and their various crimes against other worlds are in aid of this. A Rutan did eventually appear, creeping up in the Fourth Doctor serial The Horror of Fang Rock, penned by Terrance Dicks as an homage to his old friend.

The Time Warrior proved to be very popular (it also introduced uber-companion Sarah Jane Smith) and a return for the Sontarans seemed inevitable. Unfortunately, they were never used that well in subsequent stories. The following season, Sarah Jane, accompanied by the Fourth Doctor and Harry Sullivan, encountered their kind again in the aptly titled The Sontaran Experiment. A two-part story, Experiment does exactly what it promises, with a new Sontaran warrior, played by the same actor since they’re supposed to be clones, conducting experiments on astronauts in a deserted portion of Earth. It’s not a bad story, but at only two parts, it’s a little light on substance.

The Fourth Doctor next saw the punishing potatomen in 1978 in the last two episodes of The Invasion of Time, a very strange adventure in which the Doctor returns to Gallifrey under the guise of claiming the Lord Presidency in order to intercept an alien race from infiltrating the Time Lord citadel. And then the Sontarans show up and chase the Doctor through the enormously huge interior of the TARDIS. What? I know.

Their final classic series appearance came in 1985 in the Sixth Doctor story The Two Doctors, written by Robert Holmes. This story is, apologies to the late, great Holmes, a mess. The Second Doctor and his companion Jamie McCrimmon are summoned by the Time Lords to perform a task that goes horribly wrong. They eventually cross paths with the Sixth Doctor and Peri in Spain (SPAIN!?!) and the newer Doctor has to make sure his earlier self doesn’t die. And then the Sontarans show up again. There are two Sontarans in this one and, despite the fact that they’re supposed to be clones, the two actors are of vastly different heights; one is over six-feet tall and the other can’t be more than 5’5”. If someone would have told me that a story that included Patrick Troughton and Sontarans and was written by Robert Holmes would be utter drivel, I’d have called you mad. But then I watched it. Oy.

The Sontarans seemed destined to fizzle out until they were brought back in series four of the revived Doctor Who. In the two-parter, The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, a general known as Staal “The Undefeated,” (played by Christopher Ryan) hatches an invasion plot, but a sneaky one involving human clones, mind control, and ATMOS, which is the electrical network that controls all of the world’s automobiles. The Tenth Doctor reteams with UNIT and companions Donna Noble and Martha Jones to try to thwart their evil plans. The first part of this story is super, but like many second parts in the Tennant era, the conclusion left much to be desired.

The Sontarans have made cameo appearances in The End of Time and, much more prominently, in The Pandorica Opens, with Christopher Ryan returning to play an unnamed clone. For my money, I think the Sontarans have a great deal of good storytelling to be mined and a depiction of the never-ending Sontaran/Rutan war would be tops on my list of cool shit to see.

4 stories: all classic
The Ice Warriors have the rare distinction of being the most prolific classic series enemy never to make it into new Who. First appearing in the 1967 serial The Ice Warriors, the Ice Warriors are a reptilian-like humanoid race indigenous to the planet Mars. They are known for their hissing, raspy voices and thick green scales. All four of their outings were written by Brian Hayles. In line with most Second Doctor stories, The Ice Warriors is a base-under-siege yarn about the cold-weather Martians are thawed out of giant Arctic glaciers at Brittanicus Base in the distant future. Two of the six episodes of this serial are missing and, as of yet, no DVD release of any of the episodes has occurred, leading me to believe their waiting until the funds for Invasion-like animation to be cost-effective.

The Ice Warriors fight the Second Doctor for the next and last time in The Seeds of Death from 1969. The Doctor and his companions travel to the Moon via rocket to help repair the T-Mat (or teleportation) to allow the people on the Moon’s base to get home. Wouldn’t you know it, the Ice Warriors have taken over the moonbase as a staging point for a full scale invasion of Earth. They plan to use the T-Mat to send seeds (of death) through them which grow to become a lethal fungus. Seeds of Death is out on DVD already, but they’re getting ready to do a special edition so I’d wait if I were you.

In the 1970s, the Ice Warriors twice crossed paths with the Third Doctor. The first, in the 1972 serial The Curse of Peladon, saw the Doctor and Jo Grant land on the planet Peladon and become embroiled in the politics of the planet’s admission to the Galactic Federation. In attendance are various ambassadors from the other planets involved, among them, the Ice Warriors. When someone tries to halt the proceedings, they are the Doctor’s first suspects, but did they actually do it, or was someone else involved?

The Third Doctor returned to Peladon, with Sarah Jane this time, two years later in Earth years, but many years as far as Peladon’s concerned in The Monster of Peladon. It’s essentially the same plot as before but two episodes longer and with a subplot about workers in a mine. This time the Ice Warriors are the bad guys, no question. Curse is definitely worth watching, Monster you could take or leave. It was, though, to date the last onscreen appearance of the Ice Warriors, though they were mentioned briefly in the Tenth Doctor special The Waters of Mars.

4 stories: 3 classic, 1 new
While not necessarily villains, the Silurians have taxed the Doctor a few times. Created by writer Malcolm Hulke, the Silurians were the long-dormant reptile civilization that inhabited the Earth long before humans. In the 1970 Third Doctor story, Doctor Who and the Silurians, they come up to the surface to reclaim their planet. The Doctor attempts to broker a piece agreement between humans and reptile people, though his efforts are thwarted by the military-minded Brigadier who reacts with explosives. It’s a great story that illustrates the Doctor’s readiness to help any creature. The Doctor meets a different breed of Homo reptilia in 1972’s The Sea Devils where the Master tricks the aquatic cousins of the Silurians to attack the shores. This serial drops most of the political themes of the first and delivers action on the high seas.

Both species returned 12 years later in the Fifth Doctor story Warriors of the Deep. In the year 2084, the crafty lizards wait to take advantage of an underwater civil war between two nuclear powered human factions. Most people consider this serial one of the worst in the history of the show, but I disagree. The model shots and most of the creature effects are actually top notch and the story itself is interesting and dark. No, the main problem with it is that there’s a big, stupid looking rubber monster called the Myrka. A great deal of the extras on the DVD try to explain exactly why the staff at the BBC went ahead with this monster despite it looking so fake that it makes Big Bird look lifelike, and the answer was money and time. Still if you can stop laughing at the pantomime horse crashing through Styrofoam walls, then you might enjoy this slice of fried cheese.

Yet another subspecies of Silurian reappeared in the most recent series of the show in the two part story Hungry Earth/Cold Blood. The makeup and mask effects are wonderful, but nothing new really happens here. It’s still the Doctor trying to keep them from starting total war with the human race.

4 stories: 2 classic, 2 new
The Autons appeared in the very first Jon Pertwee story, Spearhead From Space, written by our favorite writer Robert Holmes. What the Autons are is a kind of living plastic controlled by an alien being known as the Nestene Consciousness. In Spearhead, prominent members of the community are being replaced by plastic copies and the newly regenerated Third Doctor has to stop them. This serial is best known for the iconic, and truly frightening, scenes of blank-faced storefront mannequins breaking through shop windows and attacking passersby with their hand-cannons. They returned to start the very next season with another Holmes-penned adventure, Terror of the Autons. This story not only saw the return of the Autons, in an even scarier way, but it was the first story to feature the most persistent villain of all, the Master.

They would remain dormant for 34 years (!) until they returned for Rose, the very first episode of the revived series and the first to feature the Ninth Doctor. In scenes directly meant to reference Spearhead, shop dummies come to life and threaten innocent Londoners. This episode starts the new series off pretty well, though there’s a bit too much overt silliness for my liking. I mean a burping garbage can? Come on! Luckily, they would not be gone forever and when they returned in the most recent series’ finale, The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang, it was as surprising an entrance as any the show’s produced.

Whew. So there it is, friends. You now know everything there is to know about all the best bad guys the long history of Doctor Who has to offer. In total, these seven adversaries (including the two from last time) appear in 76 out of 212 stories, more than a third of the show’s total output. Dizzamn. Thank you, I’m going to bed now.

Images: BBC

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  1. coconutphone says:

    Great, great stuff. I only got into who through the current Doctor (figured it was a good jumping on point after having recently gotten into Torchwood). Since then I’ve gone back and seen all the relaunch eps. This adds some great classic Who info and I’m going to hit a video store to rent some of your recommended stories.


    As much as I love the Daleks I think the Cybermen are my faves. Any thoughts on doing a “Who inflenced who” (see what I did there?) article about sci-fi characters/concepts influenced by Doctor Who? Right off the top of my head the Borg are very obvious Cybermen rip–, err ‘homages’ 🙂

  2. Skotte says:

    Thank you fFor all this! Really awesome reading!

  3. tuffhippy says:

    Um, I hate to be “that girl”, but didn’t the ice warriors/martians make another appearance during Sylvester McCoy’s tenure as The Doctor? Could swear I remember something along those lines… Isn’t that where he picked up Ace? help me out here, guys..

  4. Scott says:

    Why no mention of the villains’ appearances in Sarah Jane or Torchwood?

    Cybermen should have been in the first installment, I think. They easily belong with the Master and Daleks.

    I’m certainly no newbie to Dr. Who, having watched since I was 8 or 9, when Peter Davison was the Doctor (my favorite,) and continuing for the past 25 or so years, but it’s been nice reading these articles about things Whovian. Takes me back across many years, and many miles (or lightyears.)

  5. Kyle Anderson says:

    @Lisa – Good idea! A companion series might just have to be in order.

    @ Reem and Shotgunbadger –
    The stipulations for this list were – and were detailed in part one – that the villains were featured in three or more stories since the inception of the show, not individual episodes. The Weeping Angels, while admittedly quite awesome, have as yet only appeared in two stories, “Blink,” and “Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone.”

  6. Shotgunbadger says:

    No Weeping Angels? No idea if they ever were in ‘classic’ Who but come on, if you could put an all ‘classic’ baddie in I’d say an all ‘new’ one is deserving too!

    Great article, though.

  7. Reem says:

    you forgot the weeping angels in my opinion the scariest doctor who villains

  8. Lisa G says:


    As another Who newbie, thanks for getting me all caught up on the biggest baddies.

    Are you going to write a couple posts on the Companions next (she asked hopefully)???

  9. Sbarney says:

    Whew, indeed! That was a lot to take in, but I have to really encourage you to have someone edit your writing. A lot of those sentences took two or three re-reads to understand their meaning.(not claiming to be much better!)

    Being new to the series, re-watching Season 2 on Netflix now, I’m glad to read all this background so I get the references to Cybermen, especially. I just took a look at and found great pictures so I can see how they’ve evolved those costumes over the years, and was curious about those signature
    eye holes. They were probably a throw-away design decision that really is one of their defining visual distinctions.